Who's Who in the Marvel NOW! GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
With a new comic book series debuting next month from the creative team of writer Brian Michael Bendis (All-New X-Men, Avengers) and artist Steve McNiven (Nemesis, Civil War), and a Marvel Studios live-action film out on August 1, 2014, it's clear the Marvel sees the Guardians as a very big deal, and based on track record, much of the population may likely think so as well very soon.
The title Guardians of the Galaxy originated at Marvel back in 1969, referring to a team of 31st century superheroes including Major Victory, an alternate version of Vance Astrovik. It came to the contemporary Marvel Universe in 2008 with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Guardians of the Galaxy, an outgrowth of their successful cosmic stories like Annihilation.
That version of the team returned to comics last year in Avengers Assemble courtesy of Bendis and artist Mark Bagley, and also serves as the inspiration for the 2014 movie. In fact, much of the main characters are consistent throughout each incarnation — Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon and Groot — though the new comic book series features the addition of Iron Man, who won't, by every indication, be in the film.
In case you're not up on your space-faring Marvel lore, here's a look at each one of the characters, their history, and their powers — plus the role they'll be playing in the upcoming Marvel NOW! series.
In early press for the new Guardians of the Galaxy series, Bendis has made his affection for Peter Quill/Star-Lord obvious, and it's clear that he's at the center of the team.
"He’s Captain Kirk, he’s Nathan Fillion on Firefly," Bendis said to Newsarama. "There’s always a guy that sits at the front of the ship."
Star-Lord debuted in 1976's Marvel Preview #4 by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, with a very unique origin story, one that Bendis and McNiven will adapt in February's Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1.
"Peter Quill, Star-Lord, is half-human and half-alien, and his father is the King of Spartax," Bendis said. "His father is just about as big of an a**hole as Thanos is, and he doesn’t really trust him. Peter takes the gig to guard Earth, but he’s doing it with his team in his own way, because he thinks he’s also guarding it from his father."
Like many of the main Guardians of the Galaxy characters, Star-Lord was mostly in limbo before being used heavily by co-writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning during their Annihilation events. He went on to become a main character of their 2008 Guardians relaunch, where he was leader of the team, a position he remains in for the new series. His powers come from his suit, which allows him to travel in space along with the added bonus of super-strength.
OK, you already know who Iron Man is. But what you might not know about is the very specific role that he's playing in the upcoming series, as someone new to the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Iron Man's involvement of the team was first hinted at, in story, with the guest appearance of the Guardians during the Bendis-written run of Avengers Assemble. Other than bringing one of Marvel's most popular characters to a book full of more obscure ones, it's also an effort to bridge the worlds of Cosmic Marvel and Earthbound Marvel, which is both a storyline and real-world goal for the new series.
"The Guardians are going to have a very specific agenda that’s much more Earth-based, even though there’s still going to be them in a spaceship guarding the galaxy, but they’re guarding the galaxy for Earth," Bendis told us. "And that’s what brings Iron Man to the team."
Tony Stark's role with the Guardians will also be reflected in the Kieron Gillen-written Iron Man solo series. Bendis explained that there are plenty of intellectual reasons for a super-genius like Iron Man (created in 1963 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby) to want to explore the cosmos, but his motivations may be slightly prurient as well.
"In a completely Tony Stark moment, he’s up here for green ladies," the writer said. "Who doesn’t want to live the William Shatner Star Trek fantasy? But that fantasy will blow up in his face."
Drax was co-created by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin in 1973, first appearing in Iron Man #55 before showing up in cosmic books like Captain Marvel and Warlock.
Originally known by the very un-cosmic name "Arthur Douglas," Drax was a human whose family was killed by Thanos, which led to him getting an entirely new purpose in life (and body, plus super-strength and psychic powers) via the entity known as Kronos: Becoming "Drax the Destroyer," his reason to be was killing Thanos.
Though that's ultimately a pretty noble goal, Drax went back and forth from being a hero and a villain for a while, and eventually died. He was resurrected by Kronos (that guy always seems to have his back), though for a while with the side effect a Savage Hulk-esque intellect (read: dumb).
After another presumed death, a considerably-less-dumb Drax played an important role in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's cosmic stories, and joined Star-Lord's Guardians of the Galaxy — which led to yet another presumed death, albeit one he's clearly recovered from.
Like Drax, Gamora is green, and was created by Jim Starlin (her in 1975). Like Drax, Gamora was essentially engineered to be a living weapon against one particular enemy. Also like Drax, Gamora has a direct connection to Thanos — though hers is even more personal.
When Gamora's entire race was wiped out, she was found by Thanos, who decided to raise her as his own to be a weapon against Adam Magus (more on him down below). She has your basic "scrapper" set of powers, Super strength, agility, and healing, and having trained since an early age, an incredible hand-to-hand fighter who usually uses a sword.
Gamora has connections to pretty much every cosmic character in the Marvel Universe. From trying to murder/protect Adam Magus/Warlock, to almost being murdered by then teaming up with Drax, if you're a cosmic character at Marvel, you've either teamed-up with, nearly been killed by, or nearly killed her.
Gamora actually worked with some of those heroes, including Nova, during the first Annihilation event, which led to her joining the Guardians after they came together during the second major galactic struggle.
Rocket dates back to 1976, where he debuted in Marvel Preview #7, courtesy of creators Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen.
Rocket Raccoon's self-awarely silly name and basic concept — gun-toting raccoon from the planet Halfworld — is exactly what's made him popular over the years, but don't think he's only around simply for comic relief. He's always been shown as a highly competent soldier, and starred in his own 1985 miniseries by Mantlo and a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola.
"There’s a lot of backstory with Drax and Rocket particularly that will add level of pathos to them," Bendis said.
After years in relative obscurity, Rocket was brought back to the forefront by DnA during Annihilation: Conquest, and later joined the Guardians of the Galaxy team, where he remains. And in 2014, Rocket Raccoon will beat the likes of Wonder Woman and The Flash to the big screen with the Guardians of the Galaxy live-action film.
I AM GROOT! I am Groot. I. AM. GROOOOOT! I am Groot. I AM… GROOT. I am Groot.*
Groot is the king of a dead race. Easily described to pop culture fans as a butt-kicking version of the Ents from Lord of the Rings, Groot is a giant anthropomorphized tree who started his career in the Marvel Universe as a villainous alien bent on human capture and study. During Annihilation: Conquest, Groot joined with the other fledgling Guardians to take down the techno-organic menace known as the Phalanx.
Groot, who pre-dates the Fantastic Four and was created in 1960 by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers, formed a bond early on in the team's travels with Rocket Raccoon, the other more off-the-wall member of the team, as well as one time member Mantis (more on her below). He has been shown to be able to regrow his entire body from a single twig, and can build his mass from nearby wood. A genius level intellect is often hampered by the fact that when he speaks, most beings in the universe merely here him utter the same phrase, "I AM GROOT!" over and over. While he didn't have any early connections to the other Guardians, Groot is definitely an integral part of the team today.
Aside from the current members above, other characters have served as teammates of the Guardians of the Galaxy since its 2008 reincarnation. Adam Warlock was a founding member of the team. Warlock is a complicated character, as he is also, in the future, destined to be the villainous Adam Magus, one-time greatest-villain-of-Gamora's. Phyla-Vell, daughter of the original Captain Marvel was on the team initially as well, thought a transformation during one of their adventures changed her outlook. She was allegedly killed by none other than Thanos, though her body was never seen. Mantis, the other founding member who's not seen on the new covers, is a complicated character. She may not look it, but she's technically human… and more than human thanks to a mystical celestial destiny - oh, and she's beaten down both Cap & Thor one-on-one. Cosmo, a telepathic Russian dog once operated as the central command for the team, as well.
And then there's those other other Guardians. As noted, this is actually the second team to call themselves that, directly inspired by a team from the 31st century on Earth-691. It's complicated, and deals with lots of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff; all you need to know is they were a space-faring team and in most futures still are.More from Newsarama:
- 10 To Watch in 2013: Comic Book Characters
- Marvel NOW! First Look: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Covers
- Marvel NOW! Next Big Thing: Bendis on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY